“I am really excited” – Czech athletes prepare for next week’s paralympic games in Tokyo

Passing through rigourous coronavirus safety measures, more than two-dozen Czech atheletes have set out for Tokyo to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which will kick-off with an opening ceremony on Monday. Among the paralympic team are medal holders from the previous paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro eager to defend their titles.

Photo: Yuichi Yamazaki,  ČTK/AP

Friday night will see a 94-tonne steel monument depicting the 'Three Agitos' - the official symbol of the Paralympic Games - illuminated in the Japanese capital ahead of the official start of the games next week.

The Czech Paralympic Committee is sending 28 athletes to this year’s games. They will be competing in a total of eight disciplines - swimming, table tennis, cycling, bocce, shooting, archery, athletics and archery.

Among them is Arnošt Petráček, who won gold in 50m backstroke swimming at the previous paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro. He spoke to Czech Radio ahead of the team’s flight to the Japanese capital.

Arnošt Petráček | Photo: Pavlína Fendeková,  Czech Radio

“I am really excited to go to Tokyo. I was busy training basically until this morning. I had a quick swimm ahead of the flight. We had two PCR tests done ahead of the flight and all passed. There is one more antigen test to get through once we arrive in Japan, so we’ll see.”

Unlike the Olympic team which set out to Tokyo last month, the paralympians travelled on standard commercial flights, with a connection via Frankfurt. Nevertheless, coronavirus safety measures are just as important, with special attention being paid to insure that none of the athletes get infected. A lack of sufficent rigour in enforcing the rules saw four Czech olympians get infected last month and prevented them from taking part in the games. The memory is still fresh in Czech sport circles.

Fellow swimmer Vendula Dušková said that the athletes have to wait for some time at Tokyo Airport before all of the tests are complete.

Vendula Dušková | Photo: Ivana Schweitzerová Kolaříková,  Czech Radio

“I can’t wait for the trip to be over! We got information on how to proceed at Tokyo Airport. It looks very demanding (laughs), but hopefully will manage it all somehow. I think we should get to our accomadation sometime around the evening.  That should work for getting rid of any jet lag, we will just go have some dinner and then to bed.”

The athletes have since arrived in their destination and were welcomed on Friday by Czech Ambassador to Japan Martin Tomčo. He presented each paralympian with a traditional Daruma doll for good luck, receiving the team’s official kit in turn.

Jiří Suchánek | Photo: Pavel Petr,  Czech Radio

The paralympic games will commence with an opening ceremony on Monday, with competitions starting the following day. The first Czech athletes to present their skills will be swimmer Jonáš Kešnar and table tennis duo Petr Svatoš and Jiři Suchánek.

The latter is a bronze medal holder from the previous Paralympics in Rio. He spoke to Czech Radio ahead of the flight.

“I am feeling relatively good. We shall see what impact the different time zone and temperatures have, but in terms of my game I am feeling good. It also depends on how my opponents are feeling and if I will be able to force my style of play on them.”

Close to 4,500 athletes from 160 countries will be competing at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. They will see the introduction of badminton and taekwondo to the programme, replacing sailing and 7-a-side football.